Handling knives safely may seem like common knowledge – but for that reason it can be easy to be careless about working with them. OSHA advises foodservice workers keep knives sharpened and use them for their intended purposes only. Store them in racks or sheaths. When carrying a knife, keep its cutting edge slightly away from your body and avoid handing it to anyone – place it on a counter top instead so the person can pick it up. Don’t touch knife blades or keep a knife soaking in a sink. Finally, don’t talk with others while using a knife as it can distract from the task at hand and cause injury.
Using the right cutting boards in your kitchen can minimize wear and tear on your knives, as well as reduce the risk of contamination. When it comes to your cutting boards, plastic is the more versatile choice. Plastic tends to be easier on knives, as well as easier to clean since it can be washed in a machine. (If you need to wash a plastic cutting board by hand, use a chlorine-based sanitizer and be sure to let it air-dry completely so it won’t harbor bacteria.) Hardwood cutting boards with a fine grain can pull down fluids and trap bacteria that are killed when the board dries, according to food safety researcher Ben Chapman, but they may cause a knife’s edge to dull more quickly. Softer woods are easier on knives but have a larger grain that makes them easier to split, creating grooves that trap bacteria.
Making do with less-than-adequate kitchen equipment can lead to a safety issue for your staff and guests, impact your restaurant’s performance and consume excess energy. Does any of your equipment require frequent servicing or parts replacement? Does your chef have to adapt his or her use of equipment to avoid injury? Is there equipment that can save space in your kitchen by accomplishing multiple tasks — or save on energy? (For example, a piece of kitchen equipment like a countertop food steamer that uses less water than a basic model could potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the product.) Checking your tools against the NSF’s Certified Food Equipment list can help you identify effective and efficient replacements of kitchen equipment and tools that aren’t serving you as well as they could.
Does your kitchen team know where to start when cutting various proteins? Statefoodsafety.com advises that when cutting different types of meat in succession, start with the meat that has the lowest cooking temperature and work up to the one with the highest cooking temperature. For example, start with beef, veal, lamb and pork, then work up to poultry. It will help ensure that any germs the knife carries are killed during cooking.
Improper cleaning and storage of your knives can cause these tools to become blunt and worn prematurely or cause injury. Chefify advises operators to wash, dry and store knives immediately after each use. Soaking them with other tools may result in damage if the knives knock against those items, prolonged soaking can corrode the blade’s chromium coating, and the heat of a dishwasher may wear out knife handles. When storing knives, avoid placing them in a drawer with other utensils where they may become blunt or cause injury. Use plastic blade guards if you store knives in drawers or, better yet, store them on a magnetic strip or in a wooden block (blade side facing down).